The Sunday Show: Race, Technology and Policy

Justin Hendrix / Dec 19, 2021

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This episode focuses on the intersection of race, technology and policy. First, we hear from Carmen Scurato, Suher Adi and Jacquelyn Mason- members of the Disinfo Defense League, which calls itself a network of intersectional organizations fighting disinformation that affects communities of color- about the League’s new policy platform. And second, we speak with two researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Center for Information, Technology, and Public Life- Daniel Kreiss and Madhavi Reddi- about the need for social media platforms to adopt race-conscious policies.

First, we turn our attention to the Disinfo Defense League. If you’ve been paying attention to the problem of disinformation, you know that it is a particular problem in communities of color, which are targeted by a variety of actors seeking to sow disinformation and utilize the deep cleavages in this country over race to make political gains at expense of historically oppressed black and brown communities.

In response to this growing problem, in 2020 a group of more than 230 civil society groups banded together to form he Disinfo Defense League (DDL), a distributed national network of organizers, researchers and disinformation experts confronting what they call the “racialized disinformation infrastructure and campaigns that deliberately target Black, Latinx, Asian American/Pacific Islander and other communities of color. DDL was created by and for these communities and is supported by services and insight provided by expert partners and organization.”

This month, DDL launched its first policy platform. The League is “calling for policymakers to enact a strategic set of solutions to quell disinformation and build a media ecosystem that serves the public interest by promoting accurate news and information, protecting civil and human rights, and fostering an informed, equitable electorate across all languages.”

I caught up with three of the League’s organizers- Carmen Scurato, Suher Adi and Jacquelyn Mason- to talk about its aims. (A couple of notes- you'll hear reference to an FTC pre-rule notice on Section 18 rulemaking, NTIA listening sessions, Change the Terms Model Corporate Policies, and the Free Press Media 2070 essay.)

Then, on to part two of the show: Social media platform policies play a key role in mediating the types of problems that the folks at the Disinfo Defense League contend with. But racism is just as pervasive online as it is offline, This week, writing in Tech Policy Press, Daniel Kreiss, Bridget Barrett and Madhavi Reddi– researchers at the Center for Information, Technology, and Public Life at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill– made an affirmative argument for race-conscious-- as opposed to color-blind-- platform policies in all areas that relate to institutional politics. I got to speak to Daniel and Madhavi about their proposals, and what platforms can do to better protect historically oppressed communities and preserve democracy.


Justin Hendrix
Justin Hendrix is CEO and Editor of Tech Policy Press, a new nonprofit media venture concerned with the intersection of technology and democracy. Previously, he was Executive Director of NYC Media Lab. He spent over a decade at The Economist in roles including Vice President, Business Development & ...